Should I Lighten Up?–Now on The Good Men Project

By Angela Noel Lawson

November 12, 2018

My actions, I believe, result from the sum total of my past experiences and my current understanding.

Because of this, I know exactly why I frowned when the keynote speaker told a story about a naked female butt on stage at a conference. And a month later, when a different man told a dirty joke while on a panel discussing legal issues, I frowned again. Neither speaker’s topic had anything remotely to do with sex, but they still shared anecdotes laden with innuendo. Continue reading “Should I Lighten Up?–Now on The Good Men Project”

Self-Deception: The Enemy of Contribution

By Angela Noel Lawson

November 5, 2018

About a year ago I started a new job and penned an essay entitled, What Does it Mean to be a Contribution? In it, I chronicled how ego and selfishness led me down unproductive paths until awareness dawned. I eventually realized two things. First, I had only one chance to live a life of purpose and to make my unique contribution to the world. And second, I had the power to act.

In general, I’m proud to say I’ve heeded every one of the lessons I explained. Specifically, I’ve given my best and honored the best in others. Although I’ve kept these promises I made to myself, I’m not claiming victory. I’m writing now to report on my progress. To say yes, I’ve contributed, but also to share that I’m still fighting an occasional battle with a terrible beast. She’s ugly, mean, and smells like sweaty feet. I’ll call her Sally. Continue reading “Self-Deception: The Enemy of Contribution”

To the Lady Who Said, “We Speak English in America”

A Guest Post by Angie Riascos
October 31, 2018
My husband and nine-year-old daughter browsed the wares at an estate sale not long ago. While they shopped, they spoke to each other about everyday things. Then you, hearing their voices, came up to my husband and scolded him. “We speak English in America,” you said.
I’ve been thinking of that moment, wondering why you felt it was okay to say this to my husband and daughter. 

Continue reading “To the Lady Who Said, “We Speak English in America””

Guest Post: That Could Have Been My Child

A Guest Post By: Janet Mary Cobb

August 20, 2018

I remember November 24, 2014 like it was yesterday. The dreary weather in Chicago matched my spirits as I drove to work, wanting only to turn my car around, pick up my children from school, and head home.

I’d learned just hours earlier that twelve-year-old  Tamir Rice had been gunned down by a police officer in Cleveland, Ohio while playing in a park. I couldn’t help but think, “that could’ve been my child.” My children were twelve, sixteen and seventeen; a daughter and two sons; African American. Tamir Rice was playing in a park. He wasn’t in a gang, didn’t live or hang in a ‘bad neighborhood,’ and was threatening no one. He was a child!

I pulled into the parking lot at the high school, turned off the car, and said to myself, “What the hell am I doing here?”

My mind twisted in knots trying to figure out what I could do to protect my children, but I had to walk into a building pretending that a tucked-in shirt and a good education would prepare these Black and Latinx students (and my children) for the dangers they would face on the street.
Continue reading “Guest Post: That Could Have Been My Child”

Error Cascade: How I Messed Up a Lesson in Laundry

By Angela Noel

August 6, 2018

A funny thing happened recently in my laundry room whilst teaching nine-year-old Jackson to wash and dry his clothes. It reminded me of the danger of cognitive biases and the error cascade they can create.  Continue reading “Error Cascade: How I Messed Up a Lesson in Laundry”

Practicing Courtesy: 30 Things Nice People Do

By Angela Noel

July 23, 2018

I’ve written several posts about encounters with people while traveling in the last year. One about trouble in the security line. Another about assumptions I made about a priest. I’ve also talked about things I’ve learned from drivers of taxis or Ubers. All of these posts highlighted, in one way or another, the importance of basic civility, courtesy, and kindness. This post pulls some of those ideas together and adds a few more. Continue reading “Practicing Courtesy: 30 Things Nice People Do”

Avoid Catastrophe, Make Fewer Assumptions

By Angela Noel

July 9, 2018

More than once I’ve been dead wrong about the reality of a situation for one simple reason: Instead of asking questions, I made assumptions. Though I detest this in myself, my sphere of influence is relatively small. Thus, I can do little harm. But, the same cannot be said for others in positions of power. Their failures to question assumptions can lead to disasters, as illustrated by Ken Burns’ documentary on the Vietnam War.

In the documentary, James Willbanks, an army strategist, said of Robert McNamara, secretary of defense under Presidents Kennedy and Johnson, “When McNamara wants to know what Ho Chi Minh is thinking he interviews himself.” I found Willbanks’ words chilling. Continue reading “Avoid Catastrophe, Make Fewer Assumptions”

Three Different Stories, One Common Thread

By Angela Noel

May 6, 2018

As I mentioned in last week’s post, I’ve been criss-crossing the country lately. Not only have I been to five destinations in six months with work, but Paul and I also went to Nevada for a long weekend. Invariably, someone is driving me somewhere in each of these trips. And those someones have stories.

I learn things when I sit in the back of someone’s cab, car, or van. You might recall my experience with a cabbie last year when a simple question resulted in a truly unique conversation about his road to recovery from a gambling addiction and his path towards helping the homeless. These more recent stories are like that, but different. Continue reading “Three Different Stories, One Common Thread”

Between Birth and Death are Paperwork and Swearing

By Angela Noel

April 22, 2018

Last summer my husband and I took a bike ride along a trail near our house. I think about a lot of things when I’m riding a bike or running. On this particular occasion I was thinking about death. One thought in particular: Dying is the only obligation of the living.

Obviously, some things we cannot choose, like getting hit by a car or assaulted by a bad guy (or gal). But we can choose our response to the situation. We can decide what we do next.

I can also decide my actions. For example, I don’t have to obey laws or treat others with respect. I might go to jail and have no friends as a result–but still. I pretend I don’t have a choice as to whether or not I do certain things, like scrub the toilet or get an oil change, but I do. These decision could mean I pay a price, but they’re still my decisions.

I Swear

Admittedly, sometimes I complete some of these seemingly obligatory tasks only to avoid the painful or inconvenient impacts of NOT doing the thing.

For example, I recently filled out multiple forms with my name, birthday, social security number, address, previous medical history, shoe size, astrological sign etc. in preparation for my first appointment at a new dentist. The many swear words I used throughout the whole processes attested to how much I enjoyed it.

Paperwork, death
Full disclosure: it wasn’t THIS many forms, but this is how it FELT. Photo by Christa Dodoo on Unsplash

My son wanted me to read with him, but I wanted to get those damn forms done. He’d have to wait while I plowed through. As I glowered my way through the task, the possibility of my sudden death came to mind again. Continue reading “Between Birth and Death are Paperwork and Swearing”

The Hazards of Waterparks and the Lizard Brain

By Angela Noel

March 1, 2018

My lizard brain recently freaked out.

In his 2010 book, Linchpin, Seth Godin writes, “The lizard brain is hungry, scared, angry, and horny. The lizard brain only wants to eat and be safe. The lizard brain will fight (to the death) if it has to, but would rather run away. It likes a vendetta and has no trouble getting angry.” I would not want to meet my lizard brain in a dark alley.

The limbic cortex, aka the lizard brain, is the part of our gray matter responsible for making it very very hard to be our best selves sometimes. It wants to keep us safe, help us survive, even help us win competitions at work or at play. But all it knows is how to react, not how to respond reasonably and in appropriate proportion to a given situation.

And this is where my freaking out begins.

Continue reading “The Hazards of Waterparks and the Lizard Brain”